Past, Present and Future – Tasting New and Old Vintages at Ruinart

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Ruinart´s style is about aromatic freshness, pure fruit flavors and immense drinkability. The wines are always on the gently reductive side, made with zero oak, but 100% malolactic fermentation. Still, Ruinart never shows any malolactic flavors. While the wines are of substance and juice, they are mostly of focus and decent phenolic grip – especially in their youth. A distinct style that shows in all wines from their cellars.

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We visited the Maison to taste the new vintages of Ruinart´s Blanc de Blancs as well as their Rosé Champagne last week. During our stay we also had the chance to taste all other wines of the Maison plus a range of matured vintages.

2006 was a hot and rather wet vintage that delivered plentiful crop of good ripeness with little botrytis. Therefore, strict selection was essential during harvest from 7th to 25th of September.
Dom Ruinart´s 2006 Blanc de Blancs fruit comes mostly from the villages of Chouilly, Le Mesnil and Avize (total of 63% from the Cote de Blancs) and  from Sillery and Puisieulx (total of 37% from Montagne de Reims).

It shows very fresh from the beginning with aromas of citrus, stone fruit, white florals, delicate spiciness, little toasty notes and chalky minerality. Showing the distinct Ruinart fingerprint on the palate with gentle green grip, immense freshness, elegance and, yet, lots of substance and presence. Flavors of yellow fruits, some brioche and fine spiciness stand out. Acidity (6,9gr/l) gives life and focus while balancing the sweetness. Thanks to the natural ripeness of the vintage dosage was low (4,5gr/l).
A beautiful Blanc de Blancs for medium-term enjoyment!

Dom Ruinart 2004 Rosé benefited from a rather hot and dry 2004 vintage. Lots of sunshine, little rain and warm temperatures led to an excellent and healthy crop. The 2004 Rosé champagne is very aromatic and inviting with a nose of guava, lychee, raspberry, rose pedal, some stone fruits and delicate minerality. It is very pure and crisp on the palate as citrus, orange zest and red fruits appear. Herbal freshness and little spiciness create, together with vibrant acidity (7,3gr/l), tension. Great length, complexity and drinking pleasure in a Rosé of 81% Chardonnay and 19% Pinot Noir. Even though in its youth, it is already great to drink, but will provide even more fun and fascination over its long future.

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Amongst many beautifully matured champagnes we tasted during our visit the 1998 and 1990 Rosé stood out.
Dom Ruinart 1998 Rosé (MAGNUM) is still youthfully tight, fresh and dense. Tropical fruit, citrus and raspberry, fine spiciness and herbaceous notes create an almost ethereal weightlessness. The wine is focused, precise and vibrant on the palate. Structured for eternity with vital acidity, great length and complexity. An exceptional champagne!
Dom Ruinart 1990 Rosé (MAGNUM) started very dark and ripe, but gained focus and freshness with more aeration. Ripe stone fruit, berries, smoky layers, dried leaves, forest floor, mushrooms and orange peel create a multi-layered, intriguing aroma profile. Ripe and juicy on the palate with a solid backbone of fine acidity and lots of substance.
Everything you would expect from a great champagne from an brillant vintage.

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Tasting Pomerol and Saint Emilion again.

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For the second time we tasted some of the best from Saint Emilion and Pomerol with Munich Wine Club. We chose to check on some great vintages and classics as well as on some good, sort of under the radar, vintages.
In seven, vintage-specific flights we compared a total of 15 wines from the different appellations in a blind tasting setting.

1998 was, after 1990, probably the best vintage in the 90´s with wines of boldness, power as well as structure.
Chateau Le Gay
appeared dark and deep with aromas of blackberry, vanilla sweetness, some minty freshness and earthy characters. Beautiful and juicy on the palate with fine, yet present tannins and a long finish.
Ripeness, opulence and substance in a classic Pomerol. 1998 Chateau Gazin showed less substance and depth than the Chateau Le Gay with red fruits of raspberry and red currant, some plums, tobacco, present green notes and licorice spiciness. Still tight and a little edgy, while lacking density and juice. Honestly, I´m not sure what the future will bring for this wine.

Chateau L’ Evangile and Chateau La Conseillante represented the distinct styles of their Chateau´s perfectly with a dark, concentrated and rather robust 1994 Chateau L‘ Evangile on the one side and a fine, almost feminine and harmonious 1994 Chateau La Conseillante on the other. Both wines characterize the ripeness of the 1994 vintage that was challenged by rains before and during harvest. With aromas of dark, black fruits, florals (violets), dried herbs, leather and forest floor 1994 L´Evangile showed vital and robust on the nose, while it remained harmonious, present and a little dirty on the palate. Dark fruit, earthy layers and spiciness- especially on the long finish- create a delicious and exciting package. In this condition, the wine holds for 5+ years easily. 1994 Chateau La Conseillante has a bouquet of fine, red and dark fruits, perfume, florals, delicate green layers and some lactic notes. While the wine is very elegant on the nose, it´s immensely present and young on the palate. With brittle tannins, fine acidity and depth it has everything necessary to evolve for another decade. Beautiful, long finish with tons of dark fruits and peppery spiciness.

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1990 Chateau Lafleur presented itself elegant, almost quiet, but immensely complex with aromas of cherry, dried herbs, plum, green tea, tobacco, ethereal layers, hints of Port and fine sweetness. Pure power and substance in perfect balance on the palate. Very fruit-driven, even mineral and sweet with fine, but dense tannins and filigree acidity. Endless finish. Monumental and hedonistic while sophisticated and young. Is this one expression of a perfect wine? Absolutely.
1990 Chateau Certan de May took the hard challenge to compete with this legend. And, while being lengths behind, it still surprised us! A very complete wine showing all the ripeness and structure you would expect from a beautiful 1990 Pomerol. Expressive aromas of dark fruit, herbal spiciness, little oak and delicious sweetness. Harmonious and full of substance on the palate with dark fruit and more herbal spiciness. Delicious, compact and at its best now!

1988 Chateau La Fleur-Petrus was opulent, concentrated and a little rustic with black fruits, tobacco, leather and herbal spiciness. Great smoothness, even charm, and depth on the palate. Cool with character and a dark, punchy finish with drive. 1988 Chateau Certan Giraud was on a par with the La Fleur-Petrus and similar to the bottle we had last year with aromas of blackcurrant, tobacco, fresh, green herbs and distinct notes of iron. A little tighter and leaner than the La Fleur-Petrus, but of good balance, harmony and precision. Good stuff!

After having many outstanding 1985s over the last months, we had great expectations regarding tonight´s 1985 flight, but the wines couldn´t fully meet our expectations. 1985 Chateau Beausejour came with sweet fruit, hints of tobacco, dried fruits, fresh herbs and notes pastry. Unfortunately the palate was dominated by present acidity and lacking substance. Obviously past its prime, but still nice to drink with red fruits and herbal notes. Drink now!
1985 Chateau Troplong Mondot lost most of its charm and showed only very little sweetness, but lots of caramel, mushrooms, coffee ground and some herbal freshness. Lacking harmony and balance, it´s very dark, oxidative and bumpy on the palate with very little sweetness of remaining fruit. Certainly a weak bottle.

1979 is a Right Bank vintage I like very much. There are still many fine, smoothly textured wines with vibrant acidity around- recent examples were an amazingly fascinating 1979 Chateau Magdelaine and a stunning 1979 Chateau L`Evangile. Today´s bottle of 1979 Chateau Magdelaine didn´t perform and slightly oxidative notes gave proof that this was not a perfect bottle. Very dark on the nose with little black fruit, olives, ground coffee, dark chocolate and raisins. Light-weight and fine on the palate with nice acidity and length. Lacking substance. Good thing we had three bottles in this flight- and the other two were really shining bright! 1979 Vieux Chateau Certan came in strong with fine, but fresh aromas of dark fruits (blackberry and cherries), mixed herbs, vegetable layers, hay and peppery spiciness. Precise, elegant and fresh on the palate. Great depth and drive! 1979 Clos Fourtet appears with tons of fresh fruit as well. Aromas of red and black currant, little citrus, delicate spiciness, earthy characteristics, little leather, iron and herbaceous notes. Balanced, focused and elegant on the palate where vibrant acidity gives live. Nice finish of red fruits, freshness and iron. Textbook 1979 Right Bank.

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As expected, or at least hoped, was the 1971 Chateau Cheval Blanc another highlight of the tasting.
From this vintage of richness and opulence with good acidity many of the top wines are still shining today- and so did the Cheval Blanc with ethereal freshness, fine, sweet red-berry fruit, delicate spiciness, tobacco, iron and little truffle. Very fine, elegant and intriguing! Cool and elegant with finest sweetness on the palate. Finished very long with a cool and spicy punch. Fantastic wine!
1971 Canon la Gaffeliere came in second in this flight, but showed great as well with dark sweetness, herbaceous notes, licorice, earth, pencil lead, caramel, little honey and traces of smoke. Very round and balanced on the palate with fully integrated tannins and fine sweetness. Decent length.

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Riesling from Germany, Austria and Alsace

In a comprehensive tasting with Munich Wine Club last Saturday we tasted many of the best wines made from the Riesling grape back to 1976.

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Dönnhoff´s 2015 Oberhäuser Brücke Spätlese, from heavy, loamy soils and primary rock right on the banks of the Nahe river on the opposite side of the winery, showed very fruit-driven, ripe and open with tons of yellow fruits (stone fruit, citrus, mango and pineapple) and little herbal fresh- and spiciness. I´m curious to see these wines in 10+ years time.
The weathered slate soils with rocky parts, embedded iron and clay created a distinct Scharzhofberger Riesling in 2001. Even though this wasn´t a perfect bottle, Egon Müller´s 2001 Scharzhofberger Spätlese showed the typical fresh and intensive herbal characters and citrus notes with present, vibrant and salty minerality.
A clean, concentrated and structured wine.

Knoll´s Schütt is always among my personal favorites from the Wachau, because it´s more focused and pure and not as ripe and bold as many other vineyards. Good to see the 2012 shining strong with citrus (zest), concentrated yellow fruit, herbal freshness, notes of ginger and minerality. Bold and ripe on the palate with present alcohol and sufficient substance and fruit. Powerful and long with focus.
The fourth wine of the evening was already a serious highlight of the night!
Wittmann´s ‘La Borne’ comes from heavy limestone soils with chalk, which always create wines of elegance, coolness and fresh fruit. 2011 La Borne perfectly fits this profile. Elegant and almost reluctant aromas of little yellow fruit, fresh herbs, perfume and white florals, but powerful, dense and full of drive on the palate with substance, great depth, focus and length. Fantastic vibrant and salty minerality. Keep this wine 10+ years.

Wittmann 2007 Brunnenhäuschen is powerful and ripe with aromas of stone fruit, yellow apples, caramel, exotic spices and smoky minerality. Deep, dark and vibrant on the palate. Immense potential!
F.X. Pichler 2006 Unendlich. I remember tasting exceptional examples of this wine – like the magnificient 2002 or the deep, exciting and vibrant 2005, but the 2006 was a bit over the top for me. As in 2005 from 100% Loibenberg fruit, the 2006 is incredibly bold and driven by present alcohol. Still, great structure, depth and complex aromatics. Keep.

Schäfer-Fröhlich´s 2005 Felsenberg directly showed the distinct Schäfer-Fröhlich fingerprint of smoky minerality and notes of spontaneous fermentation (!). The volcanic soils created a wild, still young and vibrant wine of drive and focus.
Especially compared to the Schäfer-Fröhlich, Ökonomierat Rebholz 2005 Kastanienbusch is quiet, feminine and well-behaved with fine, yellow fruits, a lot of perfume and florals. Drinking nicely, but lacking character and depth.

Heymann-Löwenstein 2004 Uhlen Blaufüßer Lay comes with stone fruit, lemon, dried grass and herbal spiciness. Very clean, yet powerful and long. A fresh, fruit-driven and harmonious wine of density and drinking pleasure.
But Keller´s 2003 Morstein appeared to be on a level above with ripe stone fruit, orange zest, oriental spices, fresh herbs, pepper and dark minerality. Deep and dark on the palate with decent length. Maybe lacking some acidity and drive to be exceptional, but fascinating and still young.

In Bürklin-Wolf´s 2002 Hohenmorgen high ripeness and fine acidity combine.
A strong wine of ripe stone fruit, dried herbs, some orange zest, little honey and lactic notes. All in all more bold than elegant, but in perfect harmony.
Prager 1998 Ried Klaus Smaragd was among the stars of the night with precision, purity and perfection. Fresh aromas of citrus, mix of green herbs, traces of petrol, little moss and delicate minerality.
Fine and alive on the palate with great length and laser-like focus.
A masterpiece!

While Trimbach´s 1993 Frederic Emile was oxidized, its big brother was singing: Trimbach 1991 Clos Ste Hune showed citrus, petrol, fresh herbs, traces of honey and wild minerality. Present, vibrant and complex on the palate with a solid structure of acidity and extract, yet an elegant Clos Ste Hune of sophistication.

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J.J. Prüm 2003 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese wasn´t able to hide its origin. Which meant showing, on the one hand, the distinct dark and earthy nuances of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard, but, on the other hand, also the characteristics of an exceptionally hot 2003 vintage. Thereby, the wine was very ripe, expressive and lacked finesse and vitality. Still super-youthful, I´m curious to see the development over the next decades.

Von Schubert 1998 Abtsberg Auslese Nr.215 on the contrary was amazingly good!
Fresh, precise and complex with aromas of citrus and exotic fruits, fresh herbs, fir trees, traces of petrol and delicate, salty minerality. In perfect harmony, this wine drinks deliciously and is pure sophistication at the same time. So pure and clean.

Gillot 1976 Oppenheimer Sackträger TBA finished our tasting with ripe, stone fruit, coffee, caramel, honey and dark spiciness. A young power package of ripeness, sweetness and substance. Still endless potential.

Tasting the Cult: Napa Valley 1994- 98

It was one of the very few chances to taste and compare some of the most legendary wines from Napa Valley from 1994- 98 together with other critics and lovers of Californian wine.
The idea was to taste the wines of five wineries – Harlan Estate, Abreu Vineyards, Bryant Family Vineyard, Colgin and Dalla Valle – side by side and vintage by vintage. Additionally a reference wine from Bordeaux from the same vintage was served blind to get an impression about the benchmark from the region that has always been the role model for great Napa Valley wines.
All wines were double-decanted and served from the original bottle.

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1998, the El Nino vintage, with abnormally cold temperatures and modest ripeness the vintners were forced to reduce their yields and to select fruit strictly:
As David Abreu declassified his 1998 Madrona Ranch, because it didn´t meet his personal standards, we consequently tasted the 1999 Madrona Ranch instead. It comes with dark and powerful aromas of black fruit, glyceric notes, some road tar and leather. While smooth and dense on the palate with ripe fruit and drive, it finishes long with cool, black fruit and peppery spiciness. Still young.

Surprisingly little fruit showed Araujo´s 1998 Eisele Vineyard, which had to step in for a flawed 1998 Bryant Family Vineyard.
The wine is still youthful and even a little edgy, but full of herbs, pencil lead, traces of walnut and little earth. Robust, yet approachable, harmonious and already glorious!
1998 Herb Lamb Vineyard by Colgin was the first vintage made by Mark Aubert and comes from a tiny total production of only 300 cases.
It is a fine, fresh and beautiful wine with aromas of delicious fruit (mostly blackcurrant), perfume and ethereal notes of fresh herbs and menthol. Cool, black fruits on the palate. Great depth, complexity and length.

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Rather controversial is Dalla Valle`s 1998 Maya. With, as always, about 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Cabernet Franc in the blend, 1998 is driven by lovage and a mix of herbs and vegetables, smoke and traces of raisins. Yet, the wine is fresh and alive.
Smooth and soft, but present on the palate. Dark herbs dominate the taste and make it a
distinct and special wine marching to a different drummer.
Right from the start the 1998 Harlan showed what is possible – even in a complicated vintage. Strictly low yields resulted in a tiny production of only 1100 cases in that vintage, but created a wine of darkness, coolness and elegance.
Concentrated aromas of black fruit, leather, forest floor, lovage and cool minerality. Tight, yet approachable on the palate with more black fruits and herbal notes. It might be lacking some juice, but finishes long and focused with licorice spiciness.
1998 Chateau Haut Brion delivered the benchmark from Bordeaux in this first flight. Ripe, dark fruit, earth, dried herbs, some licorice and little pepper on the nose. Furthermore, rustic and tightly structured on the palate, very fruit-driven and long. Youthful, robust tannins and fine acidity. Even though pleasurable to drink, it´s still way to young. Keep this tight power package from Graves for 10+ years.

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After an early budbreak the 1997 growing season provided generally moderate temperatures, with the exception of one hot week in August, and light rains in September and resulted in a huge crop of exceptional quality. Many of the great 1997s are already legends today. Consequently, our expectations were high.

The mixed soils of red, weathered volcanic rock, white tufa and dark clay of Abreu´s Madrona Ranch created an exceptional wine of sweet, ripe fruit, cool freshness and perfect structure. Aromas of red fruits, licorice, smoky notes, cassis, little barnyard and vanilla.
Lush and present on the palate with substance and young, yet approachable tannins. Elegant, harmonious and sophisticated!
Bryant Family Vineyard`s 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon welcomes you with open arms and gives you a never-ending, comforting hug with bold, ripe fruits (mostly cherries), fine sweetness, baking spices and florals. Fruit-driven, lush and juicy, the wine is dense and present on the palate. A perfect wine without any flaws.
Here are the fresh herbs and the lightness again. Yes, that´s the Colgin 1997 Herb Lamb Vineyard. It shows a lot of ripe, red fruits, fresh herbs (mint!), some coffee, vegetal notes and finest minerality. A deep, cool, elegant and present wine of great precision and fascination!
Dalla Valle`s 1997 Maya doesn´t hide its origin either. Lovage, kitchen vegetables, fruit in rum and cassis represent the distinct, always special style of Maya.
Juicy and of great midpalate density the wine is shining brightly on the palate as well. Dark fruits, caramel and a mix of herbs are packed in fine acidity and delicate, dusty tannins. Delicious and full of character!
1997 Harlan is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. With a production of about 2500 cases in 1997 there were more than twice as much bottles produced than in 1998. Lots of concentrated, ripe and sweet fruits of cassis, black cherry and plum push the wine forward. It shows very dark with leather, road tar, graphite and delicate smoky notes. Very pure, powerful and focused on the palate, where the dark fruit dominates as well. Perfect and good for decades to come.
The 1997 Chateau Mouton Rothschild couldn´t win this battle – it was just outnumbered by legends. Still, nice with red fruits, animalistic notes, earth, leather, florals and leafy hints. Very elegant with good balance and harmony. Drink soon.

 

1996 produced rather rustic wines of lower acidity in Napa Valley. Yields very reduced due to rain during flowering and at the early stage of the growing season. After that, the season was warm with occasional heat spices and, by that, delivered ripe, tannic wines of great potential.
Abreu´s 1996 Madrona Ranch shows cool, even a little green and straight forward with red fruits, fresh herbs, wet forest, espresso and animalistic notes. A powerful, young and solid structured wine.
Polished, ripe and surprisingly open showed the 1996 Bryant Family Vineyard. As always, fruit-driven, sweet and ripe, but still very fine and elegant with, furthermore, traces of perfume, licorice and little smoke. Smooth and delicious now!
Colgin´s 1996 Herb Lamb Vineyard really shows the characteristics of the vintage with black fruits, violets, fresh herbs, pepper and earth. Dense, concentrated and focused on the palate. Dark fruits, graphite, mineral notes, spiciness and bitter (metallic) notes characterize the palate.
Maybe not a perfect bottle, but still a bulky and scraggy wine with lots of grip and character.
A fresh monster that´ll live forever.
1996 Maya is dark, dense and approachable. Lovage, of course, exotic spices, tobacco as well as black fruits and pruns show character and excitement. Though, the wine is on the point right now. It´s dense, but juicy and smooth.
1996 Harlan is a real monument of ripe and concentrated fruit, sweetness, character and structure. It´s fine and ripe, but also dense and almost austere. Nevertheless, layers of forest floor, graphite, burnt toast, clove and green pepper show its flavor complexity.
Young and massive after 20 years.
1996 Chateau Lafite joined the game and showed a rather rustic than elegant face.
Concentrated and cool aromas of little black fruit, earth, mushrooms and barnyard. Edgy, dense and a little leafy on the palate with hardly any (black) fruit, dark minerality, barnyard and bitter notes. This wine doesn´t allow to be consumed now. I´m curious, yet skeptical, to see what this wine will turn into.

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1995 was a relatively cool year with a long growing season creating elegant and rich wines of firm tannins and present acidity. Results were generally heterogeneous.

Little dark fruit, earth, truffle, herbal notes (thyme!) and traces of barnyard represent the nose of Abreu´s 1995 Madrona Ranch. A wine in perfect balance that is open and ripe now. Yet, not a perfectly clean bottle, but still fascinating to drink.
Flawless and fruit-driven shows the 1995 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet…once again. Aromas of sweet, ripe fruit, cedar and vanilla describe the classic style, while some traces of leather and burnt rubber add character and facets. Juicy and full of substance on the palate, where minerality and herbal spiciness join the play of red and black fruits.
Elegant and a pure joy to drink.
Colgin´s 1995 Herb Lamb Vineyard explodes with fruit, freshness and character!
With aromas of dark fruit, dried and fresh herbs, tons of lovage and mint, some cinnamon, smoke and decent oak it´s fine, ultimately complex and fascinating.
Very alive, dense and focused on the palate very ripe, sweet fruit, minty freshness and fine minerality. Perfectly structured with a core of ripe, approachable tannins and integrated, delicate acidity and an endless finish. Among the best wines of the night!
1995 is a typical Maya and a wine that divides the opinions. However, I really like the herbal, distinct style of lovage, vegetables and dark fruit. 1995 comes with peppery spiciness, licorice and malty notes and shows robust on the palate, while not lacking sweetness and balance. A challenging and special wine.
With aromas of black cassis, tobacco, exotic spices, earth and licorice the 1995 Harlan is stylistically not that far away from the Medoc. Black, deep, but ripe and sweet on the palate. An elegant, silky and open wine. Out of the five vintages tasted, this is probably the candidate to drink soonest.
A true competitor was the 1995 Chateau Margaux. Brightly shining with aromas of red and black fruits, violets, tobacco, iron and minerality. All packed in an elegant, feminine and multi-layered ensemble. While approachable, the wine is still young, dense and very long.
Distinct Margaux and, by far, the best from Bordeaux this night.

After some rains in mid May, 1994 provided a warm, yet long and great Napa Valley growing season with good yields and ripeness.

Abreu´s 1994 Madrona Ranch opened the flight with delicate, yet ripe and dark fruit, pencil lead, dried herbs and animalistic notes. Youthful, concentrated and present, yet elegant and sophisticated on the palate with fine, sweet fruit, opulence and dusty tannins.
Pure perfection in a deep, complex and very long wine!
The 1994 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon jumps with massive fruit and sweetness out of the glass. Aromas of chocolate, autumn leaves and coffee play in the background. Very fruit-driven wine of juicy ripeness, immense concentration, density and drive with all pieces in perfect harmony.
Concentrated, red fruits and freshness of green herbs and lovage describe the nose of Colgin´s 1994 Herb Lamb Vineyard. With cool, almost ethereal layers of menthol and herbs, the distinct fingerprint of the rocky hillside vineyard shines through.
It`s still youthful on the palate combining concentration with finesse, freshness and simply delicious fruit, which now starts to show a little sweetness. Stunning!
Dalla Valle´s 1994 Maya comes with black currant, tons of lovage, herbal spiciness and balmy notes. Fascinating and intriguing! On the palate the wine shows ripe and dense with lots of substance, little fruit and some leather and cigar.
Round and juicy wine of good length.
1994 Harlan is elegant, pure and full of character with cassis, black cherries, little leather, espresso, minerality and some vanilla sweetness. Concentrated, rich and deep, but elegant and of cool freshness. Powdery, approachable tannins, delicate acidity and alcohol in perfect harmony. Endless finish.
Hard to imagine that this wine gets any better, but it´ll certainly last forever.
1994 Chateau Latour took the brave challenge to compete with these wines.
Aromas of black fruits, some raspberry, traces of barnyard, graphite and leather. Open and smooth in the mouth with mostly fruit, good complexity and medium density.
Refined, but open and good to be consumed now.

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A memorable tasting proving, once again, the greatness of many of the so-called “Cult Wines” from Napa Valley, where concentration and ripeness meet elegance, freshness and sophistication like in no other wine region on the planet.

None of the wines showed fat, jammy or tired. Instead, almost all wines just start to open and promise a very long future.
Furthermore, with characteristics of site and vintage shining through, the consistency in quality and character is simply remarkable. Even in supposedly weaker vintages, as 1998, the quality level is extremely high.

It was fascinating to see the different styles of wineries and vineyards and to follow the consistency of these styles through the vintages.
My personal favorites:
Harlan Estate for its consistency in style, quality and simple greatness and Colgin´s Herb Lamb Vineyard for combining concentration of fruit and extract with freshness and focus like no other.

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Germany´s 2014 Riesling Revisited

When visiting many of the German top estates in March this year, the youthful 2014 wines showed elegant with low alcohol levels, juicy acidity and creaminess. Some were already delicious in their youth and definitely less challenging that the robust wines from 2013. Especially the Großen Gewächse from the Nahe and Rheinhessen region impressed with harmony, balance and elegance. Without lacking future potential, the wines had great finesse and fascination. They were rather quiet and aesthetic than baroque and opulent.

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Last week I had the chance to taste 19 of those wines next to each other blindly and, thereby, was able to compare, recheck and verify my early impressions of the 2014 Riesling vintage in Germany.
Here are my tasting notes and ratings:

  1. Battenfeld-Spanier 2014 Frauenberg
    Elegant aromatics of stone fruit and citrus, some herbal spiciness and traces of ripeness. Very balanced and harmonious with precision, decent drive and fine minerality. (91)
  2. Battenfeld-Spanier 2014 Schwarzer Herrgott
    Ripe fruit of apples and stone fruit with delicate, chalky minerality and freshness. Very present, almost opulent, on the palate with dancing acidity, cool depth, herbal spiciness and a lot of fruit. Perfect length with drive. (92)
  3. Kühling-Gillot 2014 Pettenthal
    Dynamic, powerful and exciting aromatics of tropical fruit and smokiness. Some red fruit. Bold and intense on the palate with exotic flavors, spiciness and salty minerality. Finishes long. Beautiful wine that fascinates with a great play of juiciness and vibrant minerality. Fantastic! (94)
  4. Wechsler 2014 Kirchspiel
    Intriguing nose of citrus and stone fruit, (smoked) onion and lighter fuel. Fine sweetness. Precise with substance and grip. First vibrant, then rather astringent in the mouth with a lot of fruit and tension. (93)
    By the way, this wine isn´t classified as GG (Großes Gewächs) since Katharina Wechsler is not a member of the VDP.
  5. Wittmann 2014 Morstein
    Very reluctant at first with fine fruit and minty freshness. Really needs time to open up in the glass (and mostly in the cellar). Very dense and compact, yet harmonious and balanced on the palate with great length, focus and saltiness. A quiet monster of structure, concentration and potential. (95)
  6. Dönnhoff 2014 Felsenberg
    Aromatics of ripe, yellow fruits and cool, freshly-cut herbs. Fine notes of butter. Elegant, but really open and inviting. Juicy and dense on the palate with juiciness of fruit, delicate, vibrant minerality. Perfect structure and length with matching sweetness, acidity and character. Surprisingly open and ready with all its pieces in place and, thereby, a great joy to drink already. (96)
  7. Gut Hermannsberg 2014 Hermannsberg
    Citrus and stone fruit, cabbage, almonds and traces of smoky minerality characterize the nose. Lean and a little bumpy and unsettled on the palate. Time will tell… (89)
  8. Joh. Bapt. Schäfer 2014 Pittermännchen
    Driven by freshness of citrus and green herbs. Fine minerality. Tight and precise with citrus, herbs (woodruff!) and saltiness. Dynamic and long. (91)IMG_2950
  9. Schäfer-Fröhlich 2014 Felsenberg
    Distinct Schäfer-Fröhlich with dominant notes of spontaneous fermentation and aromatics of stone fruit, delicate minerality and smokiness. Beautiful fruit and little juiciness on the palate. Some dustiness and sweetness show through a robust, crumbly structure of pure tension. Exciting and wild, but very pure wine! (94)
  10. Schäfer-Fröhlich 2014 Felseneck
    Another highlight from Tim Fröhlich and quite similar to the Felsenberg, but less expressive, more gracefully built and darker! Minerality forward with some stone fruit, herbs and bacon. Dynamic, salty and of perfect structure. Laser-like precision, immense length with citrus freshness, fine juiciness and herbal spiciness. (95)
  11. Clemens Busch 2014 Marienburg Fahrlay
    Quiet aromatics of tropical fruit and peach, some florals and herbs. Fine and elegant, but paltry and broad. Lacking drive and length. (88)
  12. Heymann-Löwenstein 2014 Uhlen Blaufüßer Lay
    Reductive at first. Unusual aromatics of iodine, bacon and pure smokiness. With some ripe peach only little fruit is present. Vibrant, cool and full of herbal spiciness shows the wine on the palate. This is no wine for inexperienced winelovers, because it is really challenging – and nevertheless fascinating. (92)
  13. Van Volxem 2014 Altenberg
    This Riesling shows its drive right from the beginning with smoky minerality and yellow fruit. A little blunt and rather opulent without being really loud. Present ripeness (of botrytis), some lime and little saltiness. Unfortunately lacking density and, most of all drive. Finishes brittle. (87)
  14. Leitz 2014 Schlossberg
    The only Riesling from the Rheingau really performed with sappy tropical fruit and red fruits. Cacao, licorice and some sweetness join the vital, yet delicate and sophisticated aromatics. Mouthcoating with yellow fruits, herbs and orange zest. Finishes very long with precision and vital acidity. A powerful and very approachable wine of finesse. (94)
  15. Bürklin-Wolf 2014 Ungeheuer
    Fine fruit, delicate herbs (sage!) and cool minerality. Little sweetness. Elegant and smoothly structured with proper density and grip. Elegant Bürklin-Wolf needing time. (91)
  16. Georg Mosbacher 2014 Ungeheuer
    Powerful aromatics of ripe stone fruit, some lime and even traces of red fruit. Very straight on the palate while not lacking vibrancy and substance. Vital, yet harmonious wine with delicate minerality and fresh fruits of gooseberry and lime. At the moment, the greater, more fascinating expression of the Ungeheuer. (93)
  17. Philipp Kuhn 2014 Saumagen
    Aromatically dominated by minerality. The fruit needed some time to show with grapefruit and peach. Yet, rather one-dimensional. Puristic, cool and full of salty minerality and vital acidity, this wine finishes long and firm. (92)
  18. Rebholz 2014 Kastanienbusch
    Funky, expressive aromatics of tropical fruits, sweet woodruff, green pepper and candy. Clean, yet rather broad, on the palate with tropical fruit and freshness. This wine improved the most over the time of the tasting as the loud aromatics decreased and more structure and precision showed. (89)
  19. Von Winning 2014 Grainhübel
    Another expressive wine of ripe, tropical fruit, butter, freshness and florals (violets). Herbs, mostly chamomile, and fine fruit dictate the palate. Relatively bold, robustly structured and complex. Good length. (90)

Germany´s 2014 dry Rieslings are elegant, harmonious and almost homogeneously of great quality.
The stars certainly come from Rheinhessen and the Nahe region, where the wines show character, drive and future potential, 2014 is generally a vintage for short- to medium-term drinking. The best wines will last for decades.

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Comprehensive Bordeaux – Surprises and Usual Suspects

IMG_2709Last week we hosted a ‘Comprehensive Bordeaux’ Tasting for MunichWineClub to show all facets of the region,
from dry whites, over dry reds, of course, to the sweet whites of Sauternes.
Here are the tasting notes:

We kicked-off with a fresh, steely and precise 2012 L´Abeille de Fieuzal blanc from Pessac-Leognan.
Inviting aromatics of citrus, florals and grapefruit. Smooth and ripe, yet fresh and focused.
Good length of minty freshness and spiciness.
2011 Chateau de Sales and Chateau Le Boscq followed.
Chateau Le Boscq with 55% CS, 40% M and 5% Petit Verdot showed typically dark and rustic with earth, black fruits and spices. Thanks to the 2011 vintage characteristics, this wine was already quite approachable. Medium-bodied, while lacking juice and density.
2011 Chateau de Sales came with red fruit, oaky aromatics, plums and autumn leaf. Rather lean on the palate with fine, but harsh tannins and present acidity. Otherwise driven by fruit and decent length. Give it another 3- 5 years.
From then on, starting with 2009, we looked at supposedly strong vintages only.
2009 Clos René is surprisingly light, even powerless. Red fruit, plums and dried herbs on the nose. On the palate with grippy tannins plums and dark spiciness. Simple, yet nice wine with about 10% of Malbec in the blend.
Now to the first real highlight: 2009 Chateau Batailley showed beautifully at this early drinking stage. Notes of ripe, black fruit and pure, fine sweetness. Earth, leather, black olives and tobacco. Intriguing and exciting. Soft and round in the mouth, but still healthy structured and full of potential. Finishes long with black fruit and peppery spiciness. Distinct Pauillac and very attractive!
2000 Domaine de Chevalier was the wine of the evening. It´s really incredible how beautiful 2000 Bordeaux is already showing after 15 years. Elegant, fine and multi-faceted on the nose with light, yet ripe, red fruit, delicate earthiness, florals, herbal spiciness, iron, some smoked bacon and cedar. Really sophisticated with subtle sweetness.
Medium-bodied, elegant and present. Flavor-intense, but quiet. Long finish full of fruit and herbal spiciness.
Fantastic and in line with the other 2000s we have tasted recently as Pontet Canet, Beychevelle, Lynch-Bages and La Fleur-Petrus. The vintage is really opening up and reaching its (first level) of maturity without getting tired.

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Both following 1989s were good, but not great. 1989 Chateau Haut-Bages had a fine, ripe nose of red fruits, vanilla, graphite, road tar, tobacco and herbal freshness, but was a little weak on the palate. Present acidity without sufficient flesh and concentration. Had this wine twice over the last year and it showed much better each time.
1989 Chateau Cantemerle was a little stronger. Inviting nose of complexity and elegance with black berries, florals, some green tea and oak. More harmonious and alive on the palate than the Haut-Bages Liberal, but still past its prime. Good finish with little smokiness and herbal spiciness. Still a very charming wine.
1988 Chateau Certan-Giraud showed what great terroir is able to do. Black, ripe fruits, green tea, tons of (fresh) herbs and some traces of iron in a silky textured wine of great depth and precision. Fantastic wine driven by tertiary characteristics but still full of impact, presence and great finesse.
Cassis, smoky notes, tobacco, earth and forest floor describe the nose of our 1986 Chateau Haut-Marbuzet. Hardly any fruit left, but still alive. Solid structured, rather robust and edgy on the palate.
1982 Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal was next and poured blind. This wasn´t a perfect bottle and, due to that, this wine had hardly anything to do with the perfect 1982 Haut-Bages-Liberal I had in November 2014. Today´s bottle showed very matured, not unpleasant, but lacking complexity, concentration and length. However, aromatically nice with sweet, red fruits, some dried herbs, earth and pencil lead.
1995 Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey was the perfect refresher at the end of the tasting.
Well, it was more than that by showing everything what great Sauternes can do:
Freshness, sweetness, spiciness, structure and immense complexity.
Aromatics of tropical fruits and citrus freshness. Little honey, orange zest and petrol plus tons of herbal spiciness (ginger and saffron!). Very alive on the palate. Fresh, vibrant and weightless. Sweetness, Acidity and alcohol in perfect balance.
With only hints of botrytis, this wine finishes very long with a lot fruit and spiciness. An exceptional wine and great value for money. Drink or keep.

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